Here’s what’s coming up of note in the next few weeks.
There are some interesting things coming up at the UoT Faculty of Music. On January 17th at 7.30pm there’s an opera double bill in Walter Hall featuring Toshio Hosokawa’s The Raven and The Maiden from the Sea (Futari Shizuka). Kristina Szabó features in the first piece with Xin Wang in the second. The composer conducts. See Wallace’s comment below for more information. Then at 2.30pm on January 20th in the MacMillan there’s the Student Opera Collective show. The libretto, as ever, is by Michael Patrick Albano. This time it’s a black comedy whodunnit about the death of Adriana Lacouvreur.
It’s recently been announced that Canadian soprano and snow shoveler Adrianne Pieczonka OC will join the Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School as its first Vocal Chair in May 2019. While my first thought was that a “vocal chair” sounded like something out of a Terry Pratchett novel, more serious consideration has convinced that this is a very good move indeed. There are a handful, but only a handful, of current Canadian singers who are enjoying as distinguished a career as Adrienne so she knows how the business works at its highest levels. She’s also a very grounded, down to earth, person so besides contributing to developing the vocal and dramatic talents of the GGS students I can’t think of too many people better able to coach/guide students around the snakes and ladders board of an opera career. Smart move Glenn Gould School.
Ho Ka Kei’s take on the last canonical part of the story of the House of Atreus; Iphigenia and the Furies (on Taurian Land) opened last night at the Aki Studio in a production directed by Jonathan Seinen. It’s a very funny and very thought provoking take on the story that will likely be best known to opera goers as the plot of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride. I want to start with the three questions that the playwright set out to answer:
What does it mean for mainly POC’s and marginalized folks to be taking this tale on?
What do we gain/ what do we lose/ what may feel erased/ what is truly universal about this tale or is that an assumption due to its status in the canon?
When we end a cycle, say a cycle of vengeance, what other cycles emerge?
This interests me especially because I’m not in any real sense a marginalized person. Indeed I’m almost “archetypically” of the group that has made the classical canon its own; i.e a white male with a traditional classical education(1).
It’s a bit hard to believe, but, as far as I can tell, the only available video recording of Cecilia Bartoli singing Rosina in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is a 1988 recording made at Schwetzingen when she was 22 years old. It’s pretty typical of Michael Hampe’s productions of that period; traditional, elegant, symmetrical and generally well composed, but nothing terribly insightful. It’s also rather dark and grey in places which taxes the recording technology of the period sorely.
Massenet’s Cendrillon is an interesting take on the Cinderella story. There are a lot of references in the libretto, especially in acts 3 and 4, to suggest that it’s all really a dream. So maybe it’s not unreasonable for Barbara Mundel and Olga Motta in their 2017 Freiburg production to riff of that and give us elements that don’t, at first blush, make sense. Dreams are like that. It would also explain why, in many scenes, Lucette seems to be more of a spectator than a participant.
I guess Verdi’s Nabucco is even more closely associated with the Risorgimento than his other works so it’s not perhaps surprising that, for his 2017 production for Verona, Arnaud Bernard made the connection explicit. We are in Milan during the Five Days. La Scala; which does duty as the Temple, the Hanging Gardens and itself, stands in the middle of the huge performance space of the Arena di Verona. Italian and Austrian soldiers, including cavalry, ride around the arena or clamber over the terraces. It’s wild and spectacular but it’s more than that.
It’s that time of year when one goes back over one’s writing in search of the standouts. Somewhat segmented, here are my thoughts on the year.
Major opera productions
At the COC nothing really blew me away in 2018. Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian was better than I had feared and, I think, with revisions could be rather good. In the form we saw it, it felt somewhat overblown and didactic. It was also great to see Robert Carsen’s Eugene Onegin finally get an airing in Toronto; especially with a very good, young, largely Canadian cast. Nothing from Opera Atelier really floated my boat this year though. Are Against the Grain or Tapestry major companies now? One could argue that they are sailing under false colours in describing themselves as “Indy”. In any event they each provided one of the year’s highlights with the spectacular Orphée from the former and the best new work of the year; The Overcoat, from the latter. Continue reading →